One-sort arrives throughout Minneapolis


As the calendar turns to June, Minneapolis is set to achieve a significant landmark in its recycling program. By the end of the first week in the month, all residents participating in the city’s recycling program will switch to a one-sort collection model.

One-sort recycling, also called single-stream recycling, is a practice in which recyclable items are placed in a single container for pickup. Already implemented in Los Angeles, Chicago and Portland, one-sort recycling is designed to increase the number of recyclables that are collected.

In the phased-out recycling program, residents were asked to separate aluminum, glass, plastic, batteries and paper products into separate containers. By no longer requiring residents to separate materials, Minneapolis hopes to remove a major impediment that prevents households from joining the city’s recycling program. Those who do not recycle commonly cite the inconvenience of sorting materials as the largest obstacle.

Easier for residents, one-sort recycling also benefits the city. After an initial investment to overhaul the system, collection costs are reduced because single-compartment trucks are less expensive to purchase and operate. The one-sort program is also seen an important step toward meeting the city’s goal of doubling its recycling rate from 18,000 tons to 36,000 tons per year by 2015.

The rollout of one-sort recycling began with testing in the city’s East Calhoun and Willard-Hay neighborhoods. By last fall, 31,500 residents received their blue single-sort containers. The task of getting an additional 75,000 Minneapolis residential recycling customers began in April.

Officials are encouraged with the initial response to the new recycling program. Customers who switched to one-sort recycling last fall recycled 396 tons more than they had the year earlier under the multi-sort system, an increase of 63 percent.

Minneapolis has long contended with the question of how to improve recycling rates among residents. Figures from last year show that only about 18 percent of households were participating in the city’s recycling program. This number compares poorly to many major metropolitan areas, including St. Paul, where 46 percent of households recycle. Dual-sort recycling, a system in which residents place paper in one bin and all other recyclables in another, is attributed with having improved rates of recycling in St. Paul.

Residents in the Camden Community will be the last of Minneapolis’ recycling customers to make the transition to one-sort recycling. A letter providing information on how the single-sort system works will be sent to each household. Residents will then receive new blue containers into which all recyclables can be left. Old recycling bins can be kept by residents or left for curbside pickup.

While recycling is made easier with the adoption of the one-sort recycling program, care must still be taken. Recyclables should be rinsed out, and the new pickup containers should contain no garbage. Yard waste should be kept separate as well, placed in lawn bags next to garbage and recycling containers.

While the one-sort system represents a big change for the city’s recycling efforts, many aspects of the program will remain intact. Recycling pickup times, for example, are set to remain the same. Additionally, all of the items the city currently allows to be recycled will be considered recyclable in the one-sort program. Learn more at